Frequently asked questions

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  I think my cousin inadvertently interviewed me via WhatsApp a few weeks ago with lots of questions about “going zero-waste”, so I figured it would be worthwhile to put up her questions- and my answers 🙂

1.How do you buy/ store your meat and fish?

  We try and buy our meat and fish in our own containers- we have never had a problem with our 2 go-to local butchers with putting raw meat in our own glass containers (they tare it first), however have had more difficulty at the Adelaide Central Markets. Fish has been an issue until recently when we discovered two fish mongers who would happily tare our containers with no hassle. We have had some success with buying bacon and ham/ other deli meats over the counter at Foodland and Coles, as well as the Adelaide Farmer’s Market. My plan B is always to ask if they can wrap our purchases in butcher’s paper first if they feel uncomfortable with taring (we compost the paper afterwards). We *have* been caught out at times and have accepted fish etc in plastic bags, a plastic wrapped chicken at the butcher (it was all they had). If this happens we try and wash the plastic in hot soapy water and leave to dry, and then drop it off at Coles (a supermarket chain) for soft plastics recycling.

I have bought roast pork from the Asian butcher as well- to save the hassle of explaining how to tare with a language barrier, I give him a piece of parchment paper  which he weighs the selected meat on, and then chops it up for us into our container. He is a true gem, always smiles and never asks questions 🙂

The beauty of having things in your own container is that 1) It’s a much more secure way to transport food in regards to leakage, etc 2) You can just store it as is in the fridge- again no leaks or awkward plastic bags to endure, 3) As all our glass containers are oven safe (depending on what it is/ the dish is) we can use the container to prepare and pop the whole thing in the oven 4) Nothing goes to landfill (duh) and 5) You don’t get stuck washing out an icky plastic bag so that you can (hopefully) recycle it (yuck).

2 It’s not hard then?

It is hard in a way, because we have all been brought up with the convenience of single-use plastic to store / buy things in- especially food. It does require persistence and commitment. To go back to the grass roots of the shopping experience is also interesting. To buy say, a cut of meat- I would sail into Coles, pick up a pre-packaged piece of meat and sail out without having to interact with anyone (hello, automated self- check outs). Nowadays- if I know I need meat I need to plan ahead, bring a container, chat to my butcher and ask how his injured hand is going- it brings back some of the niceties of food shopping. Also- if I have gone to the trouble of getting the meat in this way, I actually appreciate it more, I am also less likely to waste it or forget about it at the back of the fridge. Also- because it requires more effort- we definitely don’t eat meat as often as we used to, which is infinitely better for the environment.

3. What about when you buy cookies and biscuits?

I’ve learnt that I make awesome chocolate chip cookies 😉 We can buy biscuits from bakeries who sell them loose- we live walking distance from a Greek patisserie who sell amazing cookies! We do miss things like Tim Tams- I think our last packet ran out sometime in March, and amazingly we haven’t bought another one. We don’t believe in depriving ourselves too much, so every now and then we “treat ourselves” with something packaged as a reward for being otherwise pretty good- Tim Tams are a “sometimes” food in more ways than one 🙂

4. Or milk… Or juice?

We can’t buy milk in glass, or glass returnable bottles in South Australia. I’ve done my research! There was one company who used to many moons ago, but switched to plastic because of the high burden. We buy milk in cartons (always have), so that hasn’t changed. I actually don’t drink a lot of cow’s milk anyway, and I have been using home made almond milk more and more. We mainly use it to make lattes, and when recipes call for it. We can buy powdered milk in bulk, condensed milk comes in a can (I haven’t gotten around to making my own from powdered milk… yet!)

Juice is also a tricky one. We don’t own an industrial juicer (I can’t justify the cost and space for a single use item), and the amount of oranges you would have to juice to come up with 1 L of juice… It’s not cost effective. Because we have cut way back on soft drink consumption, it would be pretty cruel (especially to my partner) to abruptly cut off all juice as well. We buy orange juice in a plastic bottle (it gets recycled), things like apple juice can be bought in glass. When summer comes back we’ll be able to make watermelon juice with our ancient small juicer

5. Or sugar?

We can buy all sorts of sugar in bulk (including icing sugar!), or you can always buy it in a paper bag at the supermarket.

6. What about tea bags and coffee… Or chocolate- The world’s necessities?

We are slowly phasing out tea bags (we’re both big tea drinkers), but still have a lot to get through- we’re mainly using them for guests at the moment. They’re probably one of our biggest sources of landfill waste- plastic/ nylon tea bags, stapled to a plastic tag… We have individual tea infusers, a small 2-cup pot, and a larger 4-5 cup pot for more people. We discovered the “paper” bags that our coffee was coming in were actually lined with plastic! So we’re either going to just keep reusing the coffee bag, or buy it in our own jar- The last time we tried they weighed the coffee beans in a paper bag then poured it into our jar 😦 There are some brands of chocolate that package in paper and cardboard, larger amounts of foil can be recycled, or you can buy chocolate nibbly things from bulk bins.

7. What are Bulk bins?

Bulk bins are basically large containers/ sacks/ gravity feeding contraptions filled with package free produce. Usual suspects like grains and beans, nuts, lollies, dried fruit. It’s all dependent on where you go in terms of what’s available, but it is a fun process to find new things in bulk, and also fun to see what other people find from all over the world! My favourite finds have been rice at asian grocers’, coconut roughs; wakamme; raw cacao powder and cacao nibs; icing sugar; agar agar and tofu. Others have been lucky enough to live in places with frozen food bulk bins- think frozen peas and berries! I also have a lead on a place that does nutritional yeast in bulk 🙂

8. What about Soy sauce?

Can be purchased in a glass bottle, Goodies and Grains sell tamari in bulk and you can bring your own bottle

9. Peanut butter?

Too easy- bring your own jar to places like Goodies and Grains, or Norwood Health Shop and grind your own. So much tastier, minus the extra chemicals and glue like consistency

10. What’s been the most difficult for you so far?

Crackers and chips- no bulk bin pretzel or rice cracker can replace the crunch of a good tortilla chip. Asian food is difficult- I’ll write a post on it later- but a lot of condiments come in plastic, particular kinds of rice and noodles.Yes we recycle *everything* but it’s not ideal at the end of the day, so we keep trying to find unpackaged options. Asian cuisine is the easiest, cheapest and healthiest “fast food” option for us at home, so it is our zero waste black hole currently. It’s not a static process though, and I have plans to make my own rice noodles and coconut milk (from coconut flakes bought in bulk). I don’t have any inclination to try and make rice vinegar or rice paper rolls though!

11. What’s wrong with microbeads? And how do you buy your shampoo etc

Microbeads are in a lot of body and facial cleansers and scrubs, they get washed down the drain and into our waterways. They are too small so escape all the filters in place, and fish ingest them instead of plankton. We eat fish so… Microbeads are on the menu for us. A lot of major companies still use microbeads and it’s a big problem, there are petitions out there calling to ban all microbeads. There are other companies who use all natural exfoliants, or you can easily make your own scrubs from oatmeal, coffee grounds and baking soda. I don’t have the heart to make my other half scrub his face with oatmeal yet, so he is using a natural exfoliant nowadays (instead of the Nivea/ Clean and Clear stuff that is filled with microbeads). I use solid shampoo bars from Lush (have been using them for about 3 years), but you can also buy shampoo in bulk from a lot of places. I still have lots of plastic bottled conditioner so still making my way through that. When that gets used up it will either be a solid bar, or conditioner in bulk.

Task #2: Go out and explore what your local options are in regards to bulk, unpackaged food. I will assure you that you *will* get excited about food again, and that you will start eating a bit healthier too (hopefully). They pop up in the most unexpected places- there is a small organics shop with bulk bins walking distance from my place! Also- the more you go out and explore and know what your options are, the more equipped you will be to tackle the next step- which is actually buying the stuff. You’ll need to work out how you’ll get it weighed (container tared, cotton bag, re-used paper bag, re-used plastic bag even?), how busy the place is, whether it is self serve etc.

Happy zero-wasting!

Lisa x

Bag Lady

  
Some general “stats” about recycling in Australia:
Rates range from 16% (sorry, Tasmania!) to 70% (go Adelaide!).

This (amongst other things) makes me proud to be a South Aussie. It is deemed publicly cool to reuse/recycle/up cycle/free cycle/buy bulk produce. The state wide ban on retail plastic bags turned us into a role model both nationally and inter-nationally, and it is accepted common practice to turn up to the store/ market with your jute tote bag/ basket in tow (because if you want a plastic bag you can expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 20 cents for one).

If you do end up without a bag you can:

a) try to cram apples into your handbag (me) or

b) balance all your produce in the crooks of your elbows whilst concerned Mediterranean men look on (me) or

C) capitulate and buy a reusable tote ($1-2) or buy said plastic bag from above (most of which are “biodegradable” or insanely strong, so at least you can keep re-using them).

It’s such an accepted practice in SA now, that I actually did get quite the culture shock when I moved interstate for work for the first time. Plastic bags are still in an abundance in the Gold Coast, and I had so many awkward exchanges with cashiers. E.g. I’d hand them my crumpled tote bag with a hopeful gleam in my eye- they would look at me strangely- then there is a flash of I-get-it! recognition- and they would unceremoniously dump my groceries in a plastic bag, and then place it into my tote #sorrynotsorry

So while we waited for the rest of the country to catch up on this whole reducing waste jig, SA powered ahead and started introducing green organic household bins- originally marketed to catch all your lawn and tree trimmings to be sent off to be turned into compost, the councils (in varying degrees) started trialling household compost bins to add food waste and other organic material to the green bins. Some councils have fully embraced it, some are still a bit half-half. We’re lucky enough to live in a council area which now provides you with a free kitchen compost bin with a roll of compostable bag liners (made of corn starch and designed to break down in 30 days), which should tide you over for a year, after which they’ll drop off a new roll every year (or you can buy another roll from the library for a nominal fee- which is actually still MUCH cheaper than buying online, trust me!). What impressed me was what could go into the green organics bin nowadays (besides the obvious):

  • All food scraps, bread, dairy etc.
  • Tissues and shredded paper
  • Human hair and nail clippings
  • Pizza boxes (!)
  • Bones, sea shells (freeze them until the fortnightly collection day if the smell bothers you)
  • Animal droppings

So after about 2 weeks of using our cute new composting bin with relish, I am very impressed with how little was now going into our general waste (landfill) bin. (This was back in March 2015)

But what about the smell?
Shut your eyes and your mouth, don’t breathe in and just hoik it in there (also don’t inhale those little flying bugs). Or- you can layer stuff with lawn clippings or shredded paper or newspaper sheets.

Of course, the ideal mindset would be to go zero-waste, or as close to that as possible i.e. Not having to recycle at all; having our own compost heap; have no landfill waste. I am not making an excuse, but I am standing up for the rest of us- we are not stay at home mums, freelance writers or artists or travel bloggers. We work in a profession where single use is king; where surviving a gruelling training program (that shuttles you interstate every year at great personal, monetary and environmental cost) often means living a life of convenience foods, little to no sleep, and online shopping late at night to mitigate those dark feelings after telling someone that no, their mother is never going to wake up. Ever.

This blog was originally written with waste reducing for busy professionals in mind- people who are aware of the cumulative environmental impact and want to help, but don’t know how. It’s always great to get little ideas to implement in your own daily practice, and just because you are not a self-sustaining juggernaut of zero waste fuelled purely by rabbit poo, does not mean that the small habits you adopt now make no difference! One less coffee cup, one less plastic bag, learning to recycle properly, educating your children- it is all adds up. All you need to do is start something new.

Task #1: If you don’t already have a compost bin- ask your council! I was really impressed after speaking to my council about waste management options, and their websites are often filled with useful tips. (note- not all councils in Adelaide are participating in this program, but reaserach is just a click away!)
Happy zero wasting!

Lisa x

(Pictured above- a roll of green compost bags. I pretty much high-fived the council lady when she gave me these!)

Quick and Dirty

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  When I first started zero-wasting, I binge-read a lot of zero-waste/ eco/ green- mummy blogs. I got sucked into a vortex of (sometimes) complex recipes with specific ratios, ingredients I had never heard of/ that I would need to buy more packaged items to make one item…

  As I usually tell my bosses (sometimes to their alarm) I am extremely simplistic and my mind works on such a basic level that my thought processes are more like basic rough-drawn cartoons rather than a Monet masterpiece (better than a Picasso, I guess?). So all these recipes- not for me. So I went with my instincts and just used what works. There are gorgeous pictures out there with thrifted glass bottles up-cycled into spray bottles etc. However- one principle of zero-waste is to re-use- So when I used up a cleaning spray I pulled off the label and filled it up. I figured out how to pull the little nozzle at the top of a toilet cleaner off, so I could fill it up and still use it functionally as a squeeze bottle. An old tin paprika shaker got filled with baking soda and sits by the sink in the bathroom- pretty and functional.

  It’s all about basic principles:

  • baking soda= abrasive, seems to attract/ suck up dirt/ grime, gets fizzy when mixed with vinegar
  • vinegar= acidic, cuts through grease, deodorises, disinfects
  • essential oils= fragrance, tea tree/ eucalyptus= anti-microbial, cleans grease, good for cleaning off gooey residue (like sticky labels on jars)
  • castille soap= made from vegetable oil/ olive oil, add for extra grease-cutting power
  • soap nuts= natural saponification agent, conversation starter 😉

By using basic principles, you can apply these to different situations (just like solving mathematical problems= nerd alert)

Toilet Cleaning:

  • Squeeze bottle with 100% neat vinegar. I buy mine as a refill from Goodies and Grains (Adelaide Central Market), but you can find it in glass at most places. If you can only find it in a plastic bottle- get the biggest bottle you can to cut down on overall packaging
  • Bathroom spray bottle filled with 1:1 vinegar: water
  • Baking soda in a shaker
  • I start by sprinkling the toilet bowl and all surfaces with baking soda
  • Using the vinegar spray, I spritz all surfaces (cistern, bowl etc) let it fizz a bit and give it a wipe down
  • I then squeeze some neat vinegar into the bowl and scrub with a toilet brush and let it sit for a while before flushing- that’s it!
  • **Note: My toilet brush is still plastic (I can’t justify a beautiful Redecker set- yet! And yes I can use a washcloth- but my OCD tendencies won’t let me plunge my hand inside a toilet bowl. I use either a non-disposable washcloth to wipe the surfaces, or I usually bring home any napkins we weren’t able to refuse at restaurants/ cafes whilst eating out- which then get composted afterwards

All-purpose cleaning spray

  • 1:1 vinegar: water in a spray bottle (have you sensed the trend?), a dash of castille soap (can be bought in liquid form in bulk at the Soap and Honeyshoppe, Central Market Arcade), a few drops of eucalyptus oil (The HoneyShopped can refill your essential oils), and a couple of used up soap nuts (I don’t know if they really add anything, but they’re fun, and they freak people out 😉 ). I use reusable wash cloths that get thrown in the wash when grubby, or the above mentioned used paper napkins

Baking soda shaker

  • Baking soda works pretty hard at our place: Tooth paste, baking (!), sink scrubber, hand scrubber (so useful if you have sticky-dough-hands after kneading shaggy bread dough, coffee grounds work well too), oven cleaner (make into a thick paste with some water and spread it over surfaces, leave for a couple of hours, then spray off with the vinegar spray), deodoriser (fridge, rabbit’s litter tray, drains and sinks), soap scum scrubber, bath soak with epsom salts (also bought in bulk), face exfoliant. I’ve probably left a lot out, but you get the idea. We’re lucky enough to buy it in bulk (Goodies and Grains), but it usually comes in a paper box (with no sneaky inside plastic), which can be recycled.

I always say the same thing- use what works for you, what you like and feel comfortable using. There is no all-encompassing zero-waste bible, we are not a cult. For me, my attention span doesn’t extend to fancy recipes, but with these it’s not too hard. Out of vinegar spray- fill up bottle half way with vinegar, then fill up all the way with water. Done. Go forth and clean 🙂

Happy zero-wasting!

Lisa x

It’s all about the journey

I’ve realised that my blog has taken a 3 month hiatus (has it been that long?). There have been a few things happening in that time, and this blog has fallen by the wayside- Which wasn’t helped by the fact that I am technologically backward and forgot my password 😉

I *have* however continued to update via Instagram (The Lazy Person’s Blog) @lisa_bunny, so come stop by for more reliable updates 🙂

Over the last 12 months a lot of things have happened (not necessarily pleasant), and when we moved back to Adelaide (from interstate) it was all rather over-whelming. Not just emotionally and physically (I’m looking at you, 13 + hour drive), but the actual physical stuff that came with it. As a result of multiple interstate moves (both living separately and together), we had accumulated a ridiculous number of possessions for two people (2 couches, anyone? 2 TV’s… 2.. or more… Of everything…) , had two epic moving days, and when we thought we had things under control- we realised that we had a storage container full of stuff in Adelaide to empty as well…

I am filled with shame when I think back to how we approached our move. It was definitely not waste free at all, and it was one of the most stressful things I have done. One clear image in my mind was the morning we moved out of our old home- we had been up all night with no sleep furiously packing our countless possessions, filled with stress that we would leave something behind or that something would break, sniping at each other. We hadn’t implemented a plan to use up our pantry items in the weeks prior, so were faced with culling what we had. We took some favourite items; unopened and in-date items went to the Salvation Army; and opened liquid items- unfortunately- we threw out. And because we were in such a rush before the movers arrived- we tossed everything in the trash. And because our landfill bin was full- it went in a huge bag that we would pay to drop off at the dump later that day. *cringe* Food wastage… Not recycling… Dump frequenters… That was us.

There was a lot of bubble wrap used. And a lot of boxes for all the stuff we had. One saving grace was the week leading up to the move I wandered around the operating theatres in between cases to collect discarded Kymguard (thick plastic sheets that are used to wrap surgical instrument trays in), which is really effective used as a wrapping for fragile items. Now that I know better I would have used more clothes and blankets to cushion items, but I digress.

Upon returning to Adelaide and realising just how much stuff we had- I had a breakdown. It was somewhere between standing in the living room piled ceiling high with sealed moving boxes, and sitting on our second couch outside crying with frustration because it wouldn’t fit through the front door (even with the hinges taken out). Enough was enough. I started aggressively unpacking and aggressively culling at the same time, I was free-cycling like a mad-woman, I sold lots of big furniture via Gumtree (like Craigslist), we even had a garage (yard) sale to get rid of even more stuff. Countless bags of clothes went to the charity store, the poor quality clothes were dropped off at the recycling centre to be cut up as rags or processed for insulation batting etc. I sold stuff at consignment stores, I even woke up at an awful hour in the morning to sell some stuff at the markets:

Garage sale

Throughout the process I dreamed of minimalism and started obsessively researching it. First came Marie Kondo, and her book, “The life-changing magic of tidying-up”.

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It’s a little kooky, but there are some real gems in there. Especially the advice about keeping only the things that bring you joy. And if I didn’t get anything out of it, at least I finally learnt how to fold clothes in the most efficient way possible. Also-  Colour-coding happened.

GetAttachment.aspx booksmarie kondo   I think stuff in general is my weakness, and clothing was my biggest weakness (and burden). I realised I had been schlepping this mountain of clothes all over the country with me, and some of them never actually left the moving boxes that they had arrived in. Terrible. I also had no idea what to wear, and my most favourite items were being lost in the nether regions of my closet, never to be seen again. Enter Caroline Joy, of http://www.un-fancy.com, who keeps it pretty simple- a set of clothes and shoes for each season, learn how to mix and match and what actually works for you, and continually edit. So I started using a capsule wardrobe, and it was ridiculously effective in helping me cull more things. I also started using Stylebook (an iPad app) at the beginning to give me more of a visual of what I had, and let me play around with outfits. I haven’t used it for months, but a lot of people use it to plan outfits for trips etc. I love a good visual packing list! Here are a few examples from Summer:

 Outfit 1 Outfit 2outfit3outfit4

Finally- I stumbled on images of Bea Johnson’s minimalist home (www.zerowastehome.com) and I was hooked. What had I been doing all my life? Then I saw an article on Lauren Singer (www.trashisfortossers.com) in Frankie magazine and I was convinced- I had to at least try this!

Sorry about the long post (I guess it makes up for the 3 months of radio silence 😉 ). I am always interested in what people’s “green” or “zero waste” epiphany moments are- that moment you realise that you’re part of something much bigger than yourself, that it’s time to make some changes.  What was your epiphany moment, what has your journey been like? Because nobody goes zero-waste overnight- it’s an ongoing process, always new things to learn and try out. We also have (in my opinion) one of the most supportive Internet community out there- Everyone is lovely and supportive of each other, it really makes this feel like a team effort.

p.s. Our house is much nicer now and a lot less cluttered (but we still have more stuff than I care to admit), it has become more of a haven and I’ve finally felt comfortable about inviting people over.

Lounge room

Happy zero-wasting!

Lisa xx